Sunn O))) at Union Transfer – Submerged in Drone

If you’ve ever been to a Sunn O))) show, you know that the environment overall can feel a bit like being submerged – sinking down to the bottom of a body of water, the pressure building up in your ears and on your body.  It’s beautiful, other-worldly, and about as heavy as you can get.  That’s what I felt as I experienced them for two nights in a row at The Knockdown Center in New York and then at Union Transfer in Philly.  I must be a glutton for their sound, since I signed up for the exact same double-drone when I saw them in Florida about a year ago.  I think you’d be hard-pressed to hear, see, and feel an experience such as this and even for people that may not find this to be their cup of tea, I still would say suck it up and go experience it, it’s transcendental.

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Big Brave

Sunn embarked on this tour once again with support from Big Brave, who hail from Montreal.  I’ve tried numerous times over the last year to describe the sound of Big Brave and words always seem to fail me.  I end up mumbling out thoughts and adjectives and then disagreeing with myself, and wind up saying “just listen to them.”  Between the heavy, almost tribal drums provided by Louis-Alexandre Beauregard, punctuated by distant yet commanding vocals from Robin Wattie, this trio really has a sound that is completely their own and impossible to ignore.  My respect for them has grown each time I’ve seen them live. I also love how self-effacing and grateful they seem towards their fans and towards the members of Sunn O))) – it just seems like they take none of it for granted.

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Big Brave

After Big Brave’s set at Knockdown, a brief transitional period and an intermission long enough to allow the room to fill with fog, a singular figure could vaguely be seen shuffling across the stage to take his place at the microphone waiting in the center.  It was there, alone in a sea of fog that Attila began singing.  In the stillness that ensued, no one seemed to notice the rest of the band taking the stage, until the lights lifted ever so slightly and more shadows began to emerge.  Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson then joined in with their heavily distorted and reverberating guitars which I immediately felt all the way to my marrow.  

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Sunn O)))

The next hour plus was a meditative blur, and I found myself torn between taking pictures and just closing my eyes and letting the waves wash over me.   Also the realization that if it were me on stage, I would constantly trip on my cloak, eat shit, and embarrass everyone in the band.  While I may have cat-like reflexes by day, by fog I am a shuffling nightmare of tragedy who will most likely take anyone nearby down with me.  

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Sunn O)))

Somehow these cloaked figures have learned the navigational skills that will probably elude me forever, and seamlessly disappeared and re-emerged in the foggy shadows as various combinations of members held the stage.  As the fog began to dissipate slightly, with a gentle nudge from Anderson, Attila disappeared to prepare for the final act – one I can’t help but stand in awe of every time I experience it.  If you have seen the mirrored cloak and spiked crown, perhaps you understand where I’m coming from and can identify.  It’s basically a work of performance art and I try to photograph it as such, waiting for just the right movement of Attila’s laser-clad hand or the moment when everyone on stage has their hands and instruments stretched to the sky.   

Check out the images below! (Click on the image to open gallery)

Big Brave

 

Sunn O)))

Mayhem at The Theatre of Living Arts – A Dark Ritual

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, being neighbors with Philadelphia is rad.  Show in NYC sold out or on a date you can’t make it?  Go to Philly.  Of course, this kind of requires a car, and being a girl from a small town where my car equals freedom and escape, I refuse to part with mine.  So roughly a week ago, after a quick trip down 95 I found myself waiting for Black Anvil to take the stage at The Theatre of Living Arts, the smell of incense beginning to waft through the air.

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Black Anvil

I must say, I really enjoyed the variety of black metal that was on this bill.  I think balancing an all black metal show can be tricky but this was definitely a neapolitan-esque  offering.  Black Anvil kicked things off, and I for one felt completely blown away by their performance.  Their live performance has so much more depth to it than comes through on their new record.  While the music itself is not one of my top choices, I still got so much more of a feel for their style that night than I had by listening to the  album.  If anyone is on the fence about their new work, I highly recommend seeing them live.  That can be said for a lot of bands, but for me it was really a night-and-day difference.

Inquisition was next to play, and even aside from my fondness for corpse paint and theatrics as I’ve previously mentioned, I really appreciated how just two band members were able to make use of so much stage space and keep the audience interested.  Guitarist Dragon paced back and forth across the stage like a feral animal caught in a cage created by their large on-stage banners.  He has a reverberating voice with an otherworldly sound, and I’m not sure if it’s a natural quality or processed somehow but it kept my attention.  Combine that with Incubus’s ferocious drumming and you have a Molotov cocktail of sound in your face.  

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Inquisition

 

Closing the night out was Mayhem performing De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, and the crowd pulsed with anticipation as the altar was set up by stagehands, prepared to be haunted by none other than Attila.  The band took to a darkened and fog-laden stage and began playing so suddenly it took me a few seconds of standing in awe of these cloaked creatures to snap out it and get my camera up and firing.  

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Mayhem

Those of you reading this may not know me all that personally, so perhaps when I tell you I got goosebumps when Attila came on stage you’ll think I’m blowing smoke up your dress.  I admit to  being an excitable person, but aside from that I really respect and respond to  musicians that have such an unwavering presence onstage.  Later, discussing the show, a dear friend of mine said  “his performance style seems like a masterclass in black metal; but everyone is better off seeing him perform rather than trying to imitate.”  He summed everything up that I had been thinking but could not form into a sentence, and to me this stands true no matter which band you see him perform with.

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Mayhem

Of course, as always, my main goal is to attempt to capture the most evocative moments visually.  From his enthralling dance with the candles in front of him, either curling his hands gently around the flames as if they are old friends or lovers or gnashing his teeth and lapping at them, to the moments he reaches from the darkness, clawing at the air and extending a hand to the heavens, perhaps knowing it’s somewhere he doesn’t belong.  Some moments I cannot capture – like the maniacal laughter you hear as Attila bounds across the stage and into the shadows, only to reappear looming over the shoulder of bassist Necrobutcher. – but if you have seen Mayhem, perhaps you have witnessed them.

Check out all of the images below! Click on the image to open the gallery.

-Skc Photo-

Black Anvil

 

Inquisition

 

Mayhem